You’ve probably already read all of the stories that tell you that the average Thanksgiving dinner equals anywhere from 2,000 to 3,500 calories, and that’s not counting any of the snacking that you do on the leftovers the rest of the day! So what can you do if you don’t want to gain weight in one day of eating?

The way I see it, there are several things you can do to achieve sensible eating on Thanksgiving Day without boycotting the whole thing. 😉 Here are 5 easy ways to enjoy Thanksgiving without making this the beginning of a stretch of holiday overeating and weight gain:

1. Focus on the people and the fun. If you are truly committed to making lasting lifestyle changes, the number one thing that I believe is necessary in order to get past focusing on the food is to change that focus to the people and the gathering that you are attending. Ask yourself: “What are you looking forward to on this holiday?” If you answer, “the food!” then you may need to adjust your priorities.

If the main reason you are anticipating Thanksgiving is because of the food, you might just be one of millions of people who are struggling with health and weight issues. Yes, I realize that Thanksgiving is centered on the dinner, but does that have to be your truth? What if instead of focusing on the food, you focus on all of the things that you are thankful for today? Or, focus on your loved ones who you don’t get to see that often during the year. Sure, you can enjoy the dinner, but if that’s all you’re looking forward to, it could be that food is your main focus everyday (which would be something to examine if you want to lose weight and get fit).

2. Eat what you want but eat smaller portions. It really seems like Thanksgiving has become an all-out gorge fest. Did you know that if you eat 3,000 calories in one sitting (not hard to do on Thanksgiving), that you can effectively start a downward spiral of weight gain and overeating that just might still be with you a year from now? That’s been my past experience!

When we talk about making lifestyle changes that means that the changes aren’t put on the shelf whenever you feel like it. Lifestyle changes are ways of living that you adopt as every day life. So, if you’ve been struggling with your weight and are feeling a little anxious about Thanksgiving, what if you simply limit your portions but eat what you want?

Instead of taking over-sized helpings, take just a little bit (approx. 1/2 cup for each dinner item, I’d suggest 1/4 of a portion for dessert) of everything. Eat slowly, drink your clean water, and when you’re done, you’re done (no second helpings!). This way, you’d still be eating what you want, but you won’t be overdoing it.

3. Drink clean, pure water all day long. Forgo the alcohol and the sodas, or any other beverages that are not plain water. If you drink tea or coffee, leave out the sugar and cream, or at least cut the amount of those added ingredients in half.

The water will help keep you full and also flush out the excess sodium that you will more than likely be ingesting on Thanksgiving (unless the cook(s) are aware of how to limit the excess sodium 😉 ).

4. Go for a 30-minute walk. Get the family together and get outside for a 30-minute walk after dinner. If the weather isn’t cooperating, put on some music and start dancing around. If you’ve got kids in the family, this will be an easy sell, and if the other adults don’t join in, at least you’ll have some fun company.

Sounds silly? Why not have fun and get moving at the same time? Every little bit of physical activity that you can do will help, and you could even start a new tradition!

5. Make your goal to Maintain instead of Gain. Is it possible to not gain weight and still lose weight throughout the holiday season? Absolutely, I know this from personal experience. However what if your current commitment level to losing weight isn’t that high? Maybe there’s a small part of you that wants to lose weight, but you aren’t 100% committed today.

Well what if you make if your goal to maintain your weight and not gain? If this is your goal and you follow the other tips I gave you, I believe 100% that you can maintain your weight over this Thanksgiving holiday. I do believe you would have an even easier time of it if you left out the sugary sides and desserts, but at the very least if you limit those items to 1/4 of a portion that you would normally have, you would be much more successful at maintaining instead of gaining, and at the bottom of the list, you’d gain less that you normally would!

There really isn’t a magic bullet to avoid holiday weight gain, but if you focus more on the people than you do on the food, you’ll go a long way towards shifting your holiday season away from the food and towards the fun. Yes, you can have fun without food, and the more experiences you have like this, the more you will continue to shift your focus away from the food on future holidays.